I'm reading Mark Twain's autobiography right now. The first 250 pages are editor's notes and background, I've only managed to read through the first 30 pages.
I've always loved Mark Twain's wit and humor. He was a man that inspired me to make fun of those around me. He suffered fools lightly and knew his self worth. In the 9th grade I humiliated a girl in class by quoting Mark Twain after she said something particularly stupid. I still remember my teacher asking me to leave the classroom and his kind bright eyes explaining the importance of not putting down people who weren't as smart as me. It was a lesson that took me many years to learn.
Mark Twain spent 30+ years writing his autobiography. When he was 42 he was advised that he lost two good years of autobiography writing and he needed to start documenting his life. Before giving his publisher the write to publish his autobiography he demanded a signed contract stating his autobiography would be printed 100 years after his death. He had several reasons for this logic:
1. He wanted to be brutally honest in his assessment of people he knew.
2. He wanted to be brutally honest in his assessment of himself.
I am not sure either of these goals are realistic or possible. For example, I am friends with Sue. If you asked me how I felt about Sue while we are laughing and having a good time, I would have a positive response. What if Sue said something that upset me? Then I would have a negative response. Then let's say you come to me a week later, a month later, ten years later and ask me about Sue. I wouldn't remember every aspect and characteristic of Sue. I would remember some parts of Sue and fill in the rest with my imagination - subconsciously. I could not fairly assess Sue.
As for a honest assessment of myself, like Twain, I think this is a challenge most people cannot handle. He spent many years doubting whether he could speak poorly of himself. Even with the knowledge that it would be 100 years before his writing became public, he did not think he could humiliate himself, peel all the layers and show the world every aspect of himself.
I am also guilty of this. I don't tell you every time I lose my cool and snap. I don't share every secret that dwells deep within me.
Frankly I'm not sure it's necessary for the world to know every person's deepest desire and sinful indulgence.
Are autobiographies necessary? Are they merely an indulgence on the part of the writer to commemorate every experience and moment they see valuable?
I have years and years of journals sitting on my bookshelf - filled with stories and tears and emotions. They would fill volumes of books but are they actually necessary? Does every feeling that moves through me need to be acknowledged?
I continue to be intrigued with the idea of showing yourself to the world. Can we bare our souls to the world and survive the experience? Can we be honest and aware of ourselves? I can write a list of my flaws in a heartbeat. They are ingrained in my mind and swirl around waiting for the opportunity to remind me how I must improve. But am I being completely honest with myself? Am I catching every flaw? Every lie that I tell myself in order to function?
I have made it my goal for the past several years to stop lying to myself or goading others to lie to me all in the name of feeling good about myself. Yes, I am talking about my weight. Or my intellect. Or even my mothering skills. Without self-honesty there can be no growth. I am aware and protective of my need to improve. If I feel like I need to grow in some way, I don't make excuses. I get up and fix it. What if I'm not catching all the things I need to fix?
In Judaism there is a concept that the flaws we see in others are really the flaws within ourselves. We are all mirrors to one another. From a psychological science perspective, we are attracted to relationships that mimic patterns we have grown up with. I tend to be drawn to dominating, domineering girlfriends. And my guy friends are usually computer dorks with biting wit. We attempt to relive relationships.
I have found people to be too complex - I think it is impossible to truly assess anyone's character. Any assessment would be a mere caricature based on what I want to see. I haven't read Twain's autobiography so I can't say anything conclusively, but I hope he decided to portray himself honestly and did not use his book as a foundation to write about everyone around him instead.
Unlike my high school self, I don't see the need to tear down people around me. Someone who isn't as intellectual as me, as book smart as me, has other abilities that I choose to admire. Despite how cliche this sounds, everyone has their personal struggle and even though its easier to make fun of people who we deem as lower than ourselves, I find it very important to give people the benefit of the doubt. I no longer look to humiliate someone. I prefer to smile and encourage people to find their best version. I want people to be happy. I choose to not think of people as "less than," they are merely different - not better or worse than me.
Sadie has this ability. She loves everyone. People are wonderful. She smiles at everyone, communicates with anyone around her. She cares little for their high school gpa or their career. She is my shining example of how I think God really wanted us to exist together. We are all born with talents that are necessary for our mission in this world, it is better to encourage and stand together than take each other down for our own satisfaction.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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